May by Martina
It is incredible how, when your last day of something good is coming closer and closer, you start to realize that saying goodbye is going to be even harder than you could have imagined. I arrived in January so I had a chance to experience our busy summer camp, intense workshops planning as well as actual teaching. Now, when it is time to go, I am very grateful for everything I learned, experienced and helped to change for better. My name is Martina, I am 28 years old, my home country is Slovakia and it is my turn to do some blog updating.
This month started of by welcoming our new reinforcment. All the way from Portugal arrived our creative Ana. She brought all sorts of threads, colourfull stones and suplies to teach our kids some really cool handicraft. Apart from this class, she is also helping out with English, Gym, Art, Math, and ever so important ´Chicas Bemelsa´ - Girls Empowerment Group. Shortly after Ana´s arrival, Felipe also joined in. This half Peruvian, half Columbian, living in Canada volunteer was welcomed with great enthusiasm, especially by our boys. Having a team of females only is great but there are times when they need a male figure in their lifes. So after a long time, we were able to renew ´Chicos Bemelsa’ – group for teenage boys only. Felipe also managed to convince them to come to a workshop called ´International Club´ (last time this class was held, only 1 person showed up!) and as the boys were coming, girls decided to join in too! Well done, Felipe!
The weather in Peru is getting colder with sun popping out every now and then. However, we found an upside of this change. Back in March we decided to build our proper organic garden. Lorena and kids did really well starting it up inside the building. They planted seeds in little pots, let them to grow a bit before taking them out, preparing the materials for the next steps. Everything went really well. Unfortunately, with the roof being our only available space to perform this task, eventually all the plants were burnt by sun. It was really dissapointing for kids. Anyway, they did not give up. This time with the weather on their side and Jessica on board, they started all over again. Now we are impatiently waiting for the results of their work.
You also will be asking how our other workshops are doing, right? I must say that I am very proud of everyone in our team. All our hard work is paying off. At both our reading classes, kids absolutely love books. Every time they are really excited to respond any questions related with the story as well as to learn new words that may come up. Dancing classes are very popular too. It started of by learning dancing routines to popular songs. After a little reconsideration salsa lessons took place instead. Eventhough, it took Jenny and Felipe 3 lessons to convince teenagers to hold their hands, they are doing really well now. Our English classes had a hard start but we found few teaching tricks and it is actually working well. I love when everytime the smallest ones come up the stairs, they just count the steps in English. Or when kids use ´Thank you¨ at lunch time. Those are little things that makes you love them even more. I guess Math is the only class that our volunteers are still trying to figure out. It is not an easy task to plan this subject for different age groups with different levels and make it fun at the same time. There are more workshops going on but I leave this for the next blogs.
The last thing I would like to mention is a great project being planned for 28th June. Bemelsa has been around for almost 40 years but there is a huge lack of publicity. There are locals who claim to never had heard of Bemelsa before. Ana and Jessica came up with an idea of organizing a fair. This fair is going to be held at main square at Grocio Prado. Our plan is to inform locals about our mission, our workshops and hopefully find people willing to sponsor us. On this occasion, we will be selling some handicrafts made by kids, some food that will be prepared by Señora Maria and mums, brand new donated clothes and most likely some more stuff. Our volunteers with help of kids will be also presenting some of our workshops. They are planning on teaching guests how to make some bracelets, how to dance salsa, show them some interesting science projects, have some competitions. Basically making sure people have fun and get a better knowledge of Bemelsa.
I will be gone by that time but I wish them lots of luck and even better results than expected.
March/April by Katie
Hola, my name is Katie, I am 22 years old and I am from Seattle, Washington, USA. It is with a torn heart that I sit down to write my blog update for Bemelsa. I arrived in Peru on January 10th and on Wednesday I will be saying goodbye to Bemelsa and the wonderful children and people that I have encountered during this fulfilling experience.
Where did we leave off?
We said a sad goodbye to Eddie at the end of February and then it was just us girls! All of us had about two months of experience under our belts and we took on the task of planning out the talleres (workshops) each of us would take on and run. We had a whopping two weeks at the beginning of March to get ready- we still served lunch but there were no activities for the kids during the transition period as the school year began. I was lucky enough to get a visit from family and travel for 10 days. I heard that back here at the Comedor there was lots of planning, yoga, reading, and nice relaxing time after the whirlwind of summer camp came to an end.
The workshops can range from math and science to dance and art. The most important thing is that there is at least one taller available each day for each age group (3-7, 8-11 and 12+). We had the talleres schedule planned out and ready but there is no denying it – the first week was fairly nuts! Some kids did not know what they were signed up for, and we did not know what they were signed up for. Some kids were not signed up but came anyways and then some kids that were signed up did not come at all! The first week was also when Lorena and Selene took a trip to Lima to get school supplies for the kids. The moms had to come in and pick up all the supplies so there were a lot of people coming in and out of the comedor that week! As you can imagine there was lots of running around and a lot more planning. Now things have settled down although nothing is ever set in stone. We are in a bit of a transition period as Lorena left and I leave and two will be coming within the next two weeks. One of the many things I have learned from this experience is the importance of flexibility working with kids; I never know what I am going to get- all I can do is be flexible and grateful. What I do know is that these kids keep me on my toes and make me laugh every day. They are loving, caring, and full of life.
Tomorrow is Easter and yesterday was a beautiful procession in the Chincha Plaza de Armas. I am so grateful to get to witness and immerse myself in a new culture. Public religious celebrations are almost unheard of in the USA and it was really special to witness a community coming together to share their faith. Tonight we are headed to a Yunza- a celebration in a neighboring province with an Afro-Peruvian influence. We will dance around a tree and take turns chopping it until it falls down (sounds a bit weird, but it is very fun). They had various gifts in the tree—bowls, cups, fly swatters—so it is a bit like a giant piñata.
One thing stands out to me from my time here at the Comedor. When I am having a hard moment or my patience is being tested I always come back to one thought: I am working with kids and I want to allow them to be kids. Here at the Comedor I want to be a ray of sunshine for these kids who come from tough situations. I want to give them a chance to be kids and play and have fun, but I also know it is important to teach them manners and discipline and challenge them to work hard. We are constantly reminding the kids to say please and thank you when we are serving food and I think it is beginning to stick.
I will leave you with a story that brings a smile to my face as I type. Juan David is a rambunctious 5 year old boy who has made all of us want to rip our hair out a one time or another. However, he is also a bundle of fun and very loving. He typically comes into the Comedor for lunch and yells out señorita pocito only to be reminded that he is not going to receive any food without a please and thank you. Well, after three months Juan David came into the Comedor this past week and yelled señorita por favor poquito to Miss Jenny. I wish I could have witnessed the amazing moment, but even just the story made me incredibly happy. It is little moments like these that I will remember, and have made this experience so special. Although it is very hard to say goodbye, it is comforting to leave knowing that a person or a place is a little better off than when I arrived.
February by Eddie
A 22 hour bus ride gives you lots of time to thing about things. And that's exactly what I did as I left Chincha Alta for Cusco. My name's Eddie and I've spent the last 5 months lending my time and skills to Bemelsa. February was my last month and it was a busy one.
The month started with water week, the fourth week of our summer camp. I was in charge of the 3-7 year olds and we had a blast with home made bubble guns and giant fish paintings. After that it was international week where we mixed things up for a day and each volunteer presented something from a different country. There was green tea from China, Spanish fans, and, in my section, Canadian broom hockey.
Week 6 was Art week. Along with some paintings and sculpting, we used bottle caps that the EcoCultura team had collected during the school year to make a mural on the third floor. Finally our last week was "viaje en tiempo" where the 3-7 year olds got to make pirate paraphernalia and the other groups did time capsules, inka masks, and other time travel projects. All of that on top of our weekly beach and pool trips! Yes sir, February kept us moving.
Aside from our regular programming, the ladies organized an exceptional dance with the Chicas in the Comedor. They presented the dance in the main square as part of at the "1 billion rising" event- a world wide movement against domestic violence that has a rally on valentines day. It was inspiring to see a world wide event happening in our little corner of Perú and the girls did a great job.
Also, this last week I was treated to a surprise going away party. Tons of great kids, delicious home made cake, and throwing balloons around. It all reminded me that I am extremely lucky to get to work such great families, staff, and volunteers.
So during my marathon bus ride, I was left feeling very grateful for my time in Bemelsa. I was able to get know the real Perú, improve my Spanish, and improve skills in everything from project management to swim instruction. It's sad saying goodbye, but I'm leaving the Comedor capable hands. Thank you Bemelsa! Keep doing good things!
January by Jenny
This month has been a busy one for Bemelsa, and I wanted to share some of the exciting things that have been going on, as well as introduce myself as the voice of this month's blog entry! My name is Jenny, I'm 22 years old, I'm one of the five volunteers currently working here at Bemelsa, and today is the one month anniversary of my arrival in Grocio Prado, Chincha.
Unlike my home country (England), Peru is in the middle of summer, and for Bemelsa that means summer camp! The first week of January was a whirlwind of planning whilst our new group of volunteers got to know the city, the Comedor, and all of the children of the families who come here each day. We also had to say our goodbyes to Paul, a volunteer from Kentucky who had been working with Bemelsa for the last three months. It was great to get to meet him, even if our crossover was only for a few days; someone to show me the ropes when I first arrived and share the wealth of Comedor knowledge he'd been storing up over the last few months.
With Paul heading back to the USA, the only veteran volunteer around at the moment is Eddie, who's been working with Bemelsa for the last 4 months, and will be staying until the end of summer camp. During my first 2 weeks in Chincha, the rest of the volunteers arrived one by one from various parts of the world. Lorena, (of Peruvian heritage but American upbringing), was next to arrive, and like myself and Eddie, moved straight into the Comedor. Martina, from Slovakia, and Katie, from the USA, who live nearby with a host family, both arrived shortly afterwards.
Together, we sketched out a program for seven weeks of summer camp, to take us through to the end of February and the beginning of the school year at the start of March. Each week has a different theme and has space for 30 children to participate in games and activities, as well a weekly excursions to the beach and a local swimming pool. The time is flying by, and we're already into our fourth week of camp.
We kicked everything off with 'Deportes' : a week of crazy sporting activities, outdoor fun, relay races, kickball, challenges and obstacle courses. Everyone was definitely hungry for lunch every day that week! Week number two was all about wildlife, and our younger groups made some very impressive animal masks that they were showing off for the rest of the week. As usual, we played a whole set of ridiculous games, including performing our own animal related skits and acting out elaborate versions of charades. Last week we focused on the environment, and we took a day out to visit the beach, clean up litter, and talk about its impact on the beaches and wildlife of Chincha. Surprisingly, our youngest group were the most active, running all over the place to hunt down every scrap of garbage and putting the older ones to shame. Of course, we couldn't let a week go by without a quiz - and discovered that some of our five year olds were fairly certain that the world's tiger population was around 5, whilst the human population couldn't be more than 11 or 12 - is it geography or maths lessons we need next? :)
With every week being so busy, it's been great to take the weekends to visit the areas around Chincha, and get to see more of Peru. Together with the other volunteers, we've been able to explore Chincha's beaches, parts of Lima, the desert oasis of Huacachina, and we're already planning our next excursions. It's a good time to recharge our batteries, get to know each other better, and take in the beauty of the country we're in.
Adjusting to a new environment is always somewhat challenging - changes in food, in climate, in language and changes in way of life. Having to conduct a large part of my day in Spanish, and trying to develop new friendships across a language barrier can certainly be tiring, but it's also very enjoyable. Despite having some travelling experience, this is the furthest away from home that I have ever been, as well as the longest continuous amount of time I have gone without seeing my family. A factor that makes a world of difference is the welcome that I've received here, be that from our Director Selene, the children themselves, or from Señora Maria, who's been the head of the kitchen for the last 30 years. Altogether, it gives me the sense that this can be my home for the next five months.
Just in four short weeks so much has happened at Bemelsa, and this update doesn't have half of the stories I'd like to share. If you want to keep closer track of what we're up on more of a day-to-day basis, and see how our summer camp is progressing, I would suggest following our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Bemelsa
Thanks for taking the time to get to know more about Bemelsa!